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Shabazz Napier leads dramatic second half comeback for Blazers over 76ers

LOS ANGELES, USA - The Portland Trail Blazers had to battle back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 114-110 on Thursday, December 28 (Friday Manila time). CJ McCollum scored 34 points, Shabazz Napier added a season-high 23 and Jusuf Nurkic chipped ........»»

Category: newsSource: rappler rapplerDec 29th, 2017

Harkless leads Trail Blazers to 95-92 win over Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Maurice Harkless completed a go-ahead three-point play with 21.4 seconds remaining and the Portland Trail Blazers ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 95-92 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Harkless, who scored the final four points for the Blazers and finished with 22, made a jump shot through contact after Lonzo Ball hit a three-pointer to tie it at 91 with 1:45 remaining. Shabazz Napier added 21 points and CJ McCollum had 17 for Portland, which played without injured star Damian Lillard. Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson each scored 18 for the Lakers, who were missing ailing forward Brandon Ingram. Ball had 10 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, and Josh Hart added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a triple with seven seconds remaining for Los Angeles. Harkless and Zach Collins combined for the Blazers' first 11 points to open the fourth quarter, with Collins' turnaround leaner putting Portland ahead 74-73 with 10:17 left. Portland used a 10-2 run over the final 1:38 of the third quarter to tie the game. Napier hit a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left to make it 70-all and missed a shot at the buzzer after stealing the ball from Julius Randle. Both offenses perked up in the second quarter, with the Blazers shooting 52.2 percent (12-for-23) and the Lakers not far behind at 47.6 percent (10-of-21). The Lakers held a 49-44 lead at halftime despite McCollum and Napier combining for 17 points in the second after making all seven shots from the field. Randle had just checked into the game when he inadvertently backhanded Jusuf Nurkic in the face on a layup. Nurkic was down on the court for several minutes holding his face. Nurkic had four points, two rebounds and one assist before exiting, but did not score again despite returning late in the second quarter. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Lillard missed his second straight game with a strained right hamstring. ... F Noah Vonleh was inactive with a right hand injury. Lakers: Ingram didn't play because of a bruised right quadriceps and tendinitis in his left quadriceps. ... C Brook Lopez missed his third consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Host the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). Lakers: Host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2017

76ers take control, top Heat 106-102 for 3-1 series lead

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Ben Simmons had the first playoff triple-double by a rookie in nearly 40 years, JJ Redick scored 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers outlasted the Miami Heat 106-102 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) to move within a victory of the second round. The 76ers lead the Eastern Conference series 3-1 and can close out the Heat when play resumes in Philadelphia on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to post a playoff triple-double — 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. Joel Embiid finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for Philadelphia. Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 25 points off the bench for the Heat, who led by 12 points in the second half before letting a game they almost certainly had to have slip away. Wade carried the comeback effort, with the Heat down six and less than two minutes left. His three-point play cut the margin in half and his next two field goals got Miami within one each time. The Heat got no closer. Goran Dragic scored 20, James Johnson had 15 and Hassan Whiteside finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, which now needs to pull off some history. The Heat have erased a 3-1 deficit only once, in 1997 against New York. Miami held slim leads at the half — 2-0 in players who went to the locker room injured, 4-0 in stitches received, 61-56 on the scoreboard. A wild scene was the story of the second quarter. Philadelphia's Dario Saric was driving from the right wing and had his dribble knocked away by Justise Winslow, and four players wound up on the floor as they went for the loose ball. Josh Richardson took the worst of it, getting slammed into by Embiid. Richardson stayed down for more than a minute, eventually getting helped to his feet and to the Miami locker room. Hardly anyone noticed. All eyes were on the other end, where Dragic was shoved to the floor by Robert Covington. James Johnson — a black belt and MMA fighter — took exception and went toward Covington, so Simmons came in for a few words. It wound up taking two referees, two Heat coaches and a few players to get everyone separated. Winslow needed stitches to close a gash over his left eye. Richardson, his left shoulder bruised, came back for the second half. Simmons sent another message moments after the dustup by drilling Wade. Miami led by 12 in the third, but ceded control in a hurry. The Heat went five minutes without scoring, and Redick's reverse layup with 9:01 left capped a 14-0 run that put Philadelphia up 87-83. The 76ers wouldn't trail again. TIP-INS 76ers: Embiid went out for a play in the fourth quarter without his mask, drawing a foul, then getting the mask back on. ... Philadelphia finished with 27 turnovers, 17 of those in the first half — after not having more than 14 in any of the first three games of the series. Heat: Richardson had a Heat playoff record seven steals. Wade and LeBron James were the only other Heat players with six steals in a playoff game before Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). ... Miami started 1-for-6 from the foul line, and finished 13-for-25. ... Tyler Johnson, playing with a bandage on the left thumb he injured in the opening seconds of Game 3, logged 13 minutes and took only one shot. REBOUND ROUT Philadelphia dominated the backboards, 57-43 and extending possessions time and time again with 17 offensive rebounds. SECOND HALVES Philadelphia has outscored Miami after halftime in all four games: 74-43 in Game 1, 61-57 in Game 2, 65-44 in Game 3 and 50-41 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). UP NEXT Game 5 is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in Philadelphia......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News11 hr. 45 min. ago

Top 2 seeds set in East and West; everything else TBD

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press A look at where things stand in the NBA playoff picture, with five days remaining in the regular season: ___ EAST UPDATE The top two seeds are locked up: Toronto is No. 1 going into the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and Boston will open the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. Everything else is unclear. Philadelphia (49-30) now leads in the race for the No. 3 spot, passing Cleveland (49-31) by beating the Cavaliers 132-130 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). The 76ers, who haven’t been a top-three seed in the East since their run to the NBA Finals in 2001, would finish third if they end the season with wins against Dallas, Atlanta and Milwaukee. The Cavaliers have two games left, both against New York. So if Philly slips even once, Cleveland could return to No. 3 by sweeping the Knicks. Indiana (47-33) still has a chance at No. 3; to get there, the Pacers have to win out and have both the Cavaliers and 76ers lose out. That seems unlikely, and Indiana is probably heading for the No. 5 spot. Miami, even after a bad loss in New York, controls its fate in the race for No. 6. Milwaukee is No. 7 for now, and Washington — a loser of four straight, including a head-scratcher against Atlanta on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) — has slipped to No. 8. ___ WEST UPDATE Five days left, five spots left to clinch, and six seeds left to decide. A frantic finish is coming to the West. Portland controls the race for the No. 3 seed, and Utah knows that if it wins out the worst it can finish is No. 4 — which is astounding, considering it got off to a 19-28 start and was 10½ games out of the fourth spot. New Orleans (45-34) beat Phoenix to jump two spots to No. 5, and Minnesota (45-35) topped the Los Angeles Lakers to remain a half-game ahead of Denver for No. 8. Those two results mean four teams have exactly 45 wins going into Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), with Denver currently at 44 wins and the Los Angeles Clippers still able to get to 45 if they win out. ___ SUNDAY’S GAMES Some clarity might ... finally ... come to the West. — Denver at L.A. Clippers: The Clippers have to win out, or the season ends. Denver must try to match that desperation. — Milwaukee at New York: Milwaukee is 10-12 since the All-Star break. Some momentum might help the playoff cause. — Oklahoma City at Houston: Means nothing to Rockets. Means plenty to Thunder, who still could get home-court. — New Orleans at Golden State: The Warriors embarrassed themselves at Indiana on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). Will this be more of the same? — Portland at San Antonio: The Spurs are trying for a 21st consecutive playoff spot, and the Blazers are trying to lock up the No. 3 seed. — Brooklyn at Chicago has no playoff implication. ___ CURRENT BRACKET First-round matchups if the season ended Friday ... East: 1-Toronto vs. 8-Washington, 2-Boston vs. 7-Milwaukee, 3-Philadelphia vs. 6-Miami, 4-Cleveland vs. 5-Indiana. West: 1-Houston vs. 8-Minnesota, 2-Golden State vs. 7-Oklahoma City, 3-Portland vs. 6-San Antonio, 4-Utah vs. 5-New Orleans. ___ NOTE OF THE DAY Philadelphia has a chance to set an NBA record — the longest winning streak to end a regular season. The 76ers have won 13 straight and have three games left. Win them all, and they would top the 15-game season-ending stretch by the Rochester Royals in 1949-50. The last double-digit streak to end a season was posted by San Antonio in 2011-12, when the Spurs won their final 10 games. Philly coach Brett Brown was an assistant under Gregg Popovich on that Spurs team. ___ QUOTE OF THE DAY “You’ve got to go through whoever it is anyway.” — Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, asked about the Eastern Conference seeding jumble......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 7th, 2018

Lillard s 41 points lifts Blazers past Pelicans, 107-103

By Brett Martel, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-103 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Lillard hit his first six shots of the fourth quarter, including two three-pointers, to push Portland into its first lead since early in the first quarter. He made two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to seal the victory. Anthony Davis had 36 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks for the Pelicans, with 22 points coming after he rolled his right ankle and briefly came out of the game with 5:15 left in the third quarter. Jrue Holiday had 21 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds for New Orleans. Davis and Holiday nearly helped the Pelicans avoid a second straight loss. After Holiday's block on Pat Connaughton with 20 seconds left, New Orleans wound up with two shots to tie or lead, but both of E'Twaun Moore's three-point attempts rimmed out. The Blazers failed to rebound the first, but Connaughton corralled the second miss with two seconds left and quickly got the ball to Lillard, who was fouled. Jusuf Nurkic had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, highlighted by his putback of C.J. McCollum's miss while being fouled by Moore with 3:55 left to give the Blazers a 96-95 lead. Evan Turner scored 14 points for the Blazers, who further strengthened their hold on third place in the Western Conference. Al Farouq Aminu had 10 points and 10 rebounds, including a crucial putback of Lillard's miss with 28 seconds left to make it 105-101. New Orleans led by single digits most of the first half and by as many as 11 twice in the third quarter, the last time on Davis' nine-foot floater with 7:41 left in the period. But by late in the quarter, the Blazers were down just two after Shabazz Napier's triple. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Starting F Maurice Harkless was scratched from the lineup with left knee soreness. It was the 16th game he's missed this season. The Blazers announced after the game that Harkless would undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) in Portland to remove a loose body in his left knee. ... The Blazers have scored 100 or more in 17 straight. ... Portland won its seventh straight on the road. ... McCollum missed 16-of-19 shots, going 1-of-6 from three-point range, and finished with seven points. ... Portland was 10-of-32 on three's. Pelicans: Starting G Rajon Rondo, who missed New Orleans' loss at Houston on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) with a sprained right wrist, was scratched from his second straight game shortly before tip-off. ... Moore had 11 points. ... F Solomon Hill played a season-high 21 minutes in his fifth game back from offseason hamstring surgery. He finished with nine points, four assists and three rebounds. ... Holiday had two blocks in the game, both in the fourth quarter, including one from behind on Lillard. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Visit Memphis on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Pelicans: Visit Cleveland on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 28th, 2018

Lillard has 26 points as Blazers beat Kings 116-99

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Damian Lillard had 26 points and 12 assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers won their fourth straight with a 116-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Jusuf Nurkic added 17 points and nine rebounds for Portland, which sits in fifth place in the Western Conference -- a game back of San Antonio -- after winning five of its last six games. The current four-game winning streak matched the team's longest of the season. Zach Randolph had 20 points for the Kings, who lost their fifth straight overall. Sacramento has dropped 10 straight games at Portland's Moda Center. With just 18 wins, Sacramento is in second-to-last place in the West, above only the Phoenix Suns. The Kings have lost four straight and six of their last seven. The Kings were playing the second of a back-to-back, after losing to Minnesota 118-100 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Randolph sat out that game but returned against the Blazers. Randolph played six seasons in Portland. Lillard had scored 197 points in the past five games, the most points for a Blazer over a five-game stretch in franchise history. He had 15 points and five assists in the opening quarter against the Kings, including three three-pointers, to give Portland a 36-26 lead. He was up to 19 points by the half, when the Blazers led 66-53. None of the Kings players were in double figures. The Blazers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but the Kings closed the gap in the third quarter, closing within 88-80 to start the fourth. But CJ McCollum' jumper from out front extended the lead for Portland to 105-88 with 6:40 left. The Blazers led by as many as 18 points down the stretch. Shabazz Napier had 20 points off the bench for Portland. When he reached 17 points, Lillard clinched the highest-scoring average for any month in Portland history. He passed Geoff Petrie who averaged 30.4 points in March, 1971. Lillard averaging 32 points for the month. Lillard had 40 points in the Portland's 106-104 victory over the Suns on Saturday. TIP-INS Kings: It was the fourth meeting between the two teams. Sacramento's lone win came in the first. ... Willie Cauley-Stein had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Trail Blazers: Lillard has made a three-pointer in 43 straight games. ... Blazers coach Terry Stotts is the reigning Western Conference Coach of the Month. ... Portland had a season-high 20 fast-break points. UP NEXT The Kings host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The Trail Blazers host the Timberwolves on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 28th, 2018

Lillard scores 50 in 3 quarters, Blazers beat Kings 118-100

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 of his season-high 50 points in the third quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 118-100 on Friday night. Lillard scored at will, making 16 of 26 shots — including eight 3-pointers — and all 10 of his free-throw attempts. He reached the half-century mark by the end of the third period and sat the entire fourth. Lillard, who also had six assists, joined teammate CJ McCollum and Houston’s James Harden as the only players to score 50 points through three quarters this season. Maurice Harkless added 15 points, McCollum scored 13 and Ed Davis had five points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which made 15 3-pointers. The Blazers were coming off an overtime win in Charlotte on Thursday that snapped a three-game losing streak. Lillard, Portland’s lone All-Star this season, scored 15 points during a 17-0 run that closed out the third quarter and put the Blazers up 92-74. He made two 3s during the run and silenced the crowd when he drove the left side of the lane and flipped the ball in with his right hand. Sacramento made five consecutive 3s in the fourth quarter, four by Buddy Hield, and pulled within 107-94 with 4:45 left. Shabazz Napier made a 3-pointer for Portland to stop the Kings’ surge. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and six rebounds, and Zach Randolph added 17 points and nine boards for Sacramento. Lillard had 14 points and made three of Portland’s six 3-pointers in the first quarter. Evan Turner hit an off-balance 11-footer to end the period and put the Blazers up 33-31. After Randolph’s layup over Nurkic pulled Sacramento within 49-47 in the second, Lillard scored nine consecutive points and then added a 17-foot step-back jumper with 1.7 seconds left to put Portland up 62-52 at halftime. TIP-INS Blazers: Lillard’s eight 3-pointers are one shy of his own franchise record, which he matched earlier this season against Houston on Dec. 9. ... Portland improved to 2-1 against the Kings this season. The teams split back-to-back games in November. Kings: Iman Shumpert, who was part of the trade that sent George Hill to Cleveland, arrived for the game but did not suit up. ... Skal Labissiere (left rotator cuff strain) expects to come back after the All-Star break. UP NEXT Blazers: Host Utah on Sunday. Kings: Visit Minnesota on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 10th, 2018

Lillard leads Trail Blazers past Pacers

PORTLAND, Ore. --- Portland's home court was once one of the NBA's toughest for visitors --- but was a source of frustration for the Trail Blazers earlier this season. But they appear to have their home mojo back, as the Blazers won their fifth consecutive home game Thursday night, beating the Indiana Pacers 100-86. Damian Lillard scored 26 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to lead Portland (24-21). C.J. McCollum scored 16 points and Shabazz Napier 13 for the Blazers. Just six weeks ago, the Blazers lost six consecutive games during a late-November, early December stretch. But starting Dec. 28 with a victory over Philadelphia, Portland has r...Keep on reading: Lillard leads Trail Blazers past Pacers.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 19th, 2018

Blazers torch 76ers in the fourth, 114-110

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Shabazz Napier, who started for injured guard Damian Lillard, scored 15 of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied for 114-110 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). CJ McCollum led all scorers with 34 for the Blazers, who snapped a six-game losing streak at home. Portland had a season-high 42 points in the fourth quarter. The Sixers, who led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Joel Embiid finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Dario Saric had 25 points and nine rebounds. Napier's layup pulled the Blazers within 88-87 with 7:56 left and McCollum made free throws to give Portland the lead. The Blazers stretched it to 93-88 on Jusuf Nurkic's tip-in. JJ Redick and Embiid made consecutive three-pointers for Philadelphia to narrow the gap to 103-99 with 2:06 left. Nurkic had a pair of free throws before McCollum's pull-up jumper and it appeared the game was out of reach, but Embiid made another triple that got the Sixers within 109-105 with 16 seconds left. McCollum made free throws with 3.4 seconds to go before Embiid added another three-pointer to make it 111-108, but the Sixers weren't able to catch up. Nurkic finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Portland won its fourth straight against the Sixers at the Moda Center. Napier scored 22 points after halftime. Lillard missed his third game with a strained right hamstring. Portland's top scorer, averaging 25.2 points per game, was injured in a 102-85 loss to San Antonio on Dec. 20 (Dec. 21, PHL time). Lillard warmed up a couple of hours before the game and didn't appear hampered by the injury. On the other side, Embiid was questionable for the game with back tightness, but played. The 76ers were coming off a 105-98 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Christmas that snapped a five-game losing streak. Nurkic made a layup with nine seconds left to give Portland a 52-51 lead at halftime. But he was furious in the third quarter when officials did not stop the game when he had a bloody nose. He collected his fourth foul before heading for the locker room. Nurkic knocked heads with Redick, who appeared to have a cut lip. The Sixers stretched the lead to 75-59 with five minutes left in the quarter, outscoring Portland 24-7. But Ed Davis capped a 10-1 Portland run with a dunk to pull the Blazers to 79-70. Napier had a personal 7-0 run to close the gap to 88-81. Jerryd Bayless made a 3-pointer on the other end — but it was later ruled no good because of a shot clock violation. Napier made 2-of-3 free throws and Nurkic added two more, before Napier's layup got the Blazers within 88-87. Portland was coming off a 95-92 victory over the Lakers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). TIP-INS 76ers: The Sixers beat the Blazers 101-81 in Philadelphia on Nov. 22. Embiid had 28 points and 12 rebounds. Trail Blazers: Portland is just 7-10 at home this season, but 10-6 on the road. Asked before the game if he'd ever been on a team with that kind of record disparity at home, coach Terry Stotts said simply "No." ... McCollum led all scorers in the first quarter with 14 points. UP NEXT 76ers: Visit Denver on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Visit Atlanta on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) to kick off a three-game road trip......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2017

C.J. McCollum scores 25 points, Blazers beat Kings 102-90

PORTLAND, Ore. -- C.J. McCollum scored 25 points, Damian Lillard had 22 and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the Sacramento Kings their ninth consecutive road loss, 102-90 on Saturday night. McCollum hit four 3-pointers and shot 9 of 16 to help Portland avenge an 86-82 road loss to the Kings on Friday night. Lillard had six assists, the Blazers shot 54 percent (38 of 70) from the floor and made 10 of 21 3-pointers. Portland's Jusuf Nurkic, bouncing back from a season-low four-point performance Friday, had 14 points and seven rebounds. Meyers Leonard, in his second game back after missing four weeks with a right ankle injury, hit three 3-pointers and had a season-high 11 points for the Blazers. Shabazz Napier also had 11 on 5-of-6 shooting. Willie Cauley-Stein had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Sacramento, and Zach Randolph had 17. Neither team had a significant advantage for most of the first half. But Portland, trailing 33-32 midway through the second quarter, finished the half by hitting four 3-pointers during a 21-8 run as the Blazers grabbed a 53-41 lead at the break. Portland widened its lead to 22 points during the third quarter. During a nine-minute stretch, only Randolph scored for the Kings. Lillard scored nine points that fueled an 11-3 run as Portland took a 78-56 lead late in the third quarter. Sacramento never got closer than 12 points the rest of the game. TIP-INS Kings: Buddy Hield, who sprained his ankle in Friday's game against the Blazers, did not make the trip to Portland. ... Vince Carter (kidney stones) missed his sixth consecutive game. ... Randolph, scoreless against Portland on Friday, scored the Kings first four points Saturday. .... Sacramento lost its ninth consecutive game in Portland. Trail Blazers: Ed Davis returned to action after missing Friday's game (ankle). ... Portland heads to Memphis on Monday to start a five-game road trip, tied for its longest of the season. UP NEXT Kings: Host Denver on Monday night. Trail Blazers: At Memphis on Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2017

Towns, Timberwolves return home in big hole against Rockets

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The first taste of the NBA playoffs for Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns has been rather bitter, thanks to the three-point-happy Houston Rockets. The two-game totals tell a frustrating story for the 22-year-old: just 13 points, 5-for-18 shooting and a 2-0 deficit in the series against the Rockets. Towns has found himself the subject of pointed criticism from analysts, fans and even his own team. The switch-heavy Rockets have double-teamed Towns to a stifling effect, and the Timberwolves sure haven’t helped their seven-footer out by getting him the ball in favorable situations in the post. “They’re coming to double. He knows that. He has to face up, be strong with the ball, make quick moves,” point guard Jeff Teague said. “But we have to figure out how to get him running, get him some easy buckets.” The team’s struggles have taken a little luster off Minnesota’s first postseason home game in 14 years, but the fans who remember the Timberwolves reaching the Western Conference finals in 2004 will surely be eager to witness the playoffs in person no matter the daunting challenge in this first round. “This organization, all of our fans, they deserve this moment,” Towns said. And they want a win. The Timberwolves host the Rockets on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) in Game 3. Earlier in the day, Miami takes on Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference and New Orleans hosts Portland, both in Game 4. Later, Utah visits Oklahoma City in Game 3. Towns tried his best to shrug off the bad vibes and stinging rebukes when speaking with reporters on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “You dwell too much on the past, you forget that you’ve got to take care of the present,” Towns said. The chatter on TV and Twitter, he said, has escaped him. “I live my life very Amish-like,” Towns said. “Other than video games, I don’t think I have a reason for electronics. It’s a life that I’ve always loved.” ___ 76ERS AT HEAT 76ers lead 2-1. Game 4, 2:30 p.m. EDT (2:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: It’s simple: The team that has imposed its will is 3-0 in this series. Philadelphia took the pace where it wanted it in Games 1 and 3. Miami out-toughed the 76ers in Game 2. The Heat have to find a way to keep Philadelphia’s 3-point shooting in check; the 76ers made 18 shots from beyond the arc in Game 3. Joel Embiid is back from a concussion and a broken bone around his eye, and an already-confident Philadelphia bunch seems to have even more swagger now. KEEP AN EYE ON: 76ers guard Marco Belinelli. The 76ers are 25-6 when he plays and 14-1 when he scores at least 15 points. In this series, he’s 13-for-27 on shots from 20 feet and deeper, and many of those makes have been daggers for Miami. PRESSURE IS ON: Heat center Hassan Whiteside . Backups Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo have played a combined 145 minutes in this series, while Whiteside has played only 41, with 11 points, nine fouls, seven turnovers and three field goals in the three games. There’s no room for error now for Miami, so either Whiteside will figure it out fast in Game 4 or the Heat will get someone else into his spot. HISTORY LESSON: This is the fourth time in Dwyane Wade’s career that the Heat have trailed an Eastern Conference opponent 2-1. In the three previous Game 4s in that scenario, Miami has won all three with Wade averaging 26.7 points in those second-round games against Indiana (2004 and 2012) and Toronto (2016). ___ TRAIL BLAZERS AT PELICANS Pelicans lead 3-0. Game 4, 5 p.m. EDT (5am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The sixth-seeded Pelicans are on the cusp of a surprising sweep of the third-seeded Blazers, and their margin of victory has grown in each game. They dominated Game 3, leading by as many as 20 points in the first half and 33 in the second. Veteran guard Rajon Rondo has masterfully run the offense, and the Pelicans have played unselfishly with a different scoring leader in each game: Anthony Davis with 35 in Game 1, Jrue Holiday with 33 in Game 2 and Nikola Mirotic with 30 in Game 3. KEEP AN EYE ON: Portland’s body language, intensity and aggressiveness. Guard Damian Lillard challenged the Blazers to ramp up those aspects of their game, stressing that the Pelicans were “a lot more aggressive than we were and we didn’t dish it back out. I think in the playoffs and in a situation like this, when a team is coming for you like that, you’ve got to maybe go out of your way to do it back, even if that means foul trouble or some altercations happen out there.” PRESSURE IS ON: Lillard. The Pelicans have sold out to stop the Portland star, who missed 9-of-14 shots in Game 3. “It’s either going to be a tough shot, or I’ve got to give the ball up,” Lillard said. “I’ve got to trust making the right play, and when it comes time I’ve got to take my chances and I’ve got to take those tough shots.” INJURY UPDATE: Blazers starting forward Evan Turner missed Game 3 because of a toe injury in Game 2. The team did not update his status on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). ___ ROCKETS AT TIMBERWOLVES Rockets lead 2-0. Game 3, 7:30 p.m. EDT (7:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The Rockets cruised to a 20-point victory in Game 2 despite only 12 points on a staggering 2-for-18 shooting performance by James Harden. After squandering their chance to steal Game 1 on the road in a three-point loss, the Wolves are back home in a big hole against the team with the best record in the NBA. They’ll need a big boost from a home crowd celebrating the team’s return to the postseason to send the series back to Houston for a Game 5. KEEP AN EYE ON: Gerald Green. The 32-year-old journeyman, once acquired by the Wolves in the franchise-altering 2007 trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston, made five three-pointers in Game 2 for postseason career-high 21 points. PRESSURE IS ON: Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau. Though cornerstones Towns and Andrew Wiggins are getting their first taste of postseason, Thibodeau and veterans Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Teague he brought in last summer have plenty of playoff experience. The Wolves have been largely directionless on offense against the Rockets and their underrated defense. INJURY UPDATE: Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, who has sat out the first two games with a sprained ankle, is likely to play in Game 3. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who dislocated his shoulder in the second-to-last game of the regular season, said this week he wouldn’t rule out a return in this series. ___ THUNDER AT JAZZ Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 10 p.m. EDT (10:00am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: In the first two games, the higher-rebounding team has been the winning team, with Game 1 going to Oklahoma City and Utah taking Game 2. A critical part of this trend will be Thunder center Steven Adams and his presence on the floor. He played just 22 minutes in Game 2 before fouling out. The Thunder will have to do better against Utah center Rudy Gobert and forward Derrick Favors, who combined for 31 rebounds in Game 2. KEEP AN EYE ON: Russell Westbrook. He has taken a secondary role at times in this series, but that might change. With Oklahoma City’s inability to close in Game 2 after leading in the fourth quarter, Westbrook could look to be more of a scorer in Game 3. He’ll need more help from Carmelo Anthony, who has made just 11 of 31 field goals in the series. PRESSURE IS ON: George. The man who called himself “Playoff P” before the series began came out with 36 points and eight three-pointers in the opener. He followed that with a dud, just 18 points on 6-for-21 shooting. INTRIGUING MATCHUP: Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell vs. Thunder guard Corey Brewer. Mitchell used his speed to slice through the Thunder defense for 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 . He was essentially unstoppable once he decided to stop shooting three-pointers. The Thunder could be forced to put George on him more if Brewer struggles defensively again. ___ AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami and AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 21st, 2018

Wade turns back the clock and 76ers in Game 2 Heat victory

By Dan Gelston, Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dwyane Wade turned in a vintage performance, scoring 28 points to end the 76ers' 17-game winning streak and lead the Miami Heat to a 113-103 Game 2 win over Philadelphia on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) and even the first-round playoff series. Playing without injured All-Star center Joel Embiid for the 10th straight game, the Sixers nearly pulled off an epic comeback and rallied from 16 down to just two points late in the fourth. Philly fans were going wild and suddenly the home-court edge that had made the Sixers unbeatable for a month seemed like it would perk the team back up for one more notch on the winning streak. Wade buried two big buckets down the stretch that pushed back the Sixers and tied the series as it shifts to Miami for Game 3 on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The Sixers lost for the first time since March 13 (Mar. 14, PHL time) to Indiana. They won 16 straight to end the regular season and the first game of the playoffs. Wade's play resembled his glory days at times and he carried the Heat in a sensational second quarter that was the difference. He pump-faked his way to 15 points in the quarter — impressive enough, even moreso that he outscored the potent Sixers by two points. The 36-year-old Wade made his first seven shots of the game and passed Larry Bird for 10th on the NBA's career postseason scoring list. After a Game 1 victory where they couldn't miss, the Sixers couldn't make a big bucket in the first half. The Sixers made a team playoff-record 18 three's in Game 1 and missed a whopping 16-of-18 three's in the first half. Robert Covington missed all five and Dario Saric was 0 for 4. The Sixers made four baskets and scored 13 points in the quarter. The Heat slowed the game down — exactly the kind of style where the Sixers needed Embiid in the middle — and used a collective of defenders on Ben Simmons that rattled the rookie point guard early. The passing-and-pushing offense that got the Sixers to the No. 3 seed in the East failed them for the first time since early March. But there was life left in the fourth. Saric was fouled by Wade and sank both from the line to make it 91-82 and he followed with a three the next time down that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Saric broke up a pass on defense that led to a Simmons dunk and suddenly 18 straight wins was within reach. Ersan Ilyasova made a tip shot to close to 98-96. Wade contributed with baskets, assists and free throws over the final 4 minutes to close out the win. Simmons led the Sixers with 24 points and Saric had 23. TIP-INS Heat: Goran Dragic scored 20 points and James Johnson had 18. 76ers: Philly native and Hollywood star Kevin Hart rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell and sat courtside a few seats down from Allen Iverson. ... Team consultant Jerry Colangelo was at the game. EMBIID UPDATE Embiid wore his black mask and put on a three-point shootout in pregame that had fans going wild with each shot. Again, there was no timetable on when Embiid would return this series, if at all. "I can't wait to get him back," coach Brett Brown said. "He, to me, is the difference maker. Joel Embiid changes the dynamics in many ways of this team. There will be a reintroduction of him back into the team." LINEUP CHANGE Ilysaova got the start at center for the first time in Embiid's absence over Amir Johnson. REMEMBERING GREER The 76ers held a moment of silence for Hall of Famer Hal Greer. Greer died Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) after a brief illness. He was 81. He's the 76ers' career leader in points, field goals, field goals attempted, games and minutes played. "He was a graceful man. He was class. He was a gentleman," Brown said. UP NEXT Game 3 is Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and Game 4 is Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in Miami......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 17th, 2018

Spurs, Heat looking for bounce-back efforts in Game 2

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra have copious amounts of championship jewelry in their possessions, and their teams committing to the level of defense necessary to win in the postseason is a major reason why that’s the case. Vastly improved defense will be what both coaches demand — or at least hope for — on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs just didn’t have enough answers for Golden State in Game 1 of their Western Conference series, and Spoelstra’s Miami Heat offered Philadelphia absolutely no resistance in a second-half meltdown that opened their Eastern Conference series. The Warriors and 76ers are both looking to take 2-0 leads when those matchups resume on their respective home floors. “We understand that we are not favorites,” San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili said. “We are underdogs. We talked about it, and to get a win here, we’ve got to overachieve. We’ve got to do better than we think we can do, even. So we’ll fight as hard as we can in Game 2.” That will have to be a mantra for both the Spurs and the Heat. The Spurs allowed Golden State to shoot 54 percent in what became a 113-92 playoff-opening win for the defending NBA champions. Game 1 in Philadelphia was even more one-sided, as the 76ers closed the game on a 74-40 run in what ended up as a 130-103 rout — the most points that any Heat team has allowed in any postseason game. “We have to learn from it,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said. “It’s a seven-game series. They beat our butt in the first one. But at the end of the day, they’re up 1-0 no matter which way they did it. We definitely have to make adjustments. We can’t go into the game saying, ‘Oh, they’re not going to make those shots again.’” ___ A look at Monday night’s (Tuesday, PHL time) matchups: HEAT AT 76ERS, Philadelphia leads 1-0. Game 2, 8 p.m., (8am, PHL time). Need to know: Philadelphia has now won 17 consecutive games, as well as 24 of its last 25 at home (not counting a “home” loss in London to Boston), and is coming off its fourth outing of 130 points or more this season. “If that’s the way it’s going to be, then we’ve got to conquer it,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve got to find a way.” Keep an eye on: Miami will have to change how it attacks screens and gets out on Philadelphia’s shooters, but that’s obviously easier said than done. Philadelphia will be brimming with confidence, and rightly so. 76ers coach Brett Brown knows the Heat will make adjustments, and it’ll be incumbent on him to react on the fly in Game 2. Injury update: 76ers star center Joel Embiid was released from the NBA’s concussion protocol Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but he will not play in Game 2. He’s recovering from surgery to repair an orbital fracture. For Miami, point guard Goran Dragic played Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) through a sore right knee that has dogged him for a couple weeks. Pressure is on: It was just one game, but Miami knows it can’t have a combined 13-for-40 shooting effort from its starting lineup again, or see Hassan Whiteside — the $23 million center — be a complete non-factor while playing only 12 minutes. ___ SPURS AT WARRIORS, Golden State leads 1-0. Game 2, 10:30 p.m., (10:30am, PHL time). Need to know: When Golden State senses a chance to grab command, it usually pounces — as evidenced by how the Warriors are 8-0 in their last eight Game 2s. The Spurs have never dropped six consecutive postseason games under Popovich, though that streak will likely be seriously tested unless San Antonio comes up with some very different ideas very quickly. Keep an eye on: San Antonio likely needs to get LaMarcus Aldridge going very early, to see if he can get in the rhythm that avoided him in Game 1. For Golden State, Klay Thompson bided his time in Game 1 and wound up shooting 11 for 13 — playing a brilliant game, getting teammates open with hard cuts in the early going before the ball found him. Injury update: Warriors star Stephen Curry and Spurs star Kawhi Leonard both remain out, but there’s no new major issues for either team. Pressure is on: Oddly, it’s probably more on the Warriors than the Spurs. Golden State lost 10 of its final 17 regular-season games, and doesn’t want to see this series open with a split that will see the return of “what’s wrong with the Warriors?” questions......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Stump speeches aren’t necessary. Not when your campaign drives itself on performance alone, when you elevate the conversation with each and every outing, the way James Harden did from the opening tip of this regular season until the final buzzer. So if it seems like Harden has skillfully avoided getting caught up in this reporter-crafted Kia MVP pickles that often drive the rest of our NBA dialogue on a daily basis, it’s by design. Besides, who needs to dive in on the debate when you have unsolicited celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kobe Bryant, who made clear to USA Today Sports that Harden’s time is now. “It’s got to be James,” Bryant said. “I really don’t understand the debate about picking somebody else. I don’t get it. Like, what the hell does this guy have to do? I mean for the last three years, the guy has been absolutely lights out, and now you still want to sit here and debate who should be MVP when he leads the league in scoring (30.4 points per game), his assists numbers (8.8 apg) are off the charts, they have the best record in the league (65-16). “If he doesn’t win MVP this year, what the hell is he supposed to do to win MVP, average 40 [points], 15 [assists] and 15 [rebounds]? I mean, come on now. Enough is enough.” After coming up short twice in the past three seasons, Harden is poised to capture the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. It is something he felt he earned last season, when his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, used a triple-double season to claim the hardware. Stephen Curry won the award in 2015 and 2016, his star rising in concert with the Golden State Warriors' surge from lottery team, to contender to championship-winner in two of the last three seasons. While Curry claimed those awards, Harden won MVP honors in a vote of his peers at the NBPA’s first Players Awards in July 2015. There will be no dispute this time around. There is no other narrative that trumps Harden’s.   No other player's performance rises above what he’s done for the Rockets this season, the first with he and fellow superstar point guard  Chris Paul sharing the leadership load of the league’s best team. Not even four-time Kia MVP LeBron James, who turned in one of the finest seasons of his 15 year career in Cleveland, could catch Harden on the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder or in the minds of most voters. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coached Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and two-time Kia MVP Steve Nash. Yet it was Harden who received D'Anton's greatest compliment after a win in Portland last month when called Harden the “best offensive player I’ve ever seen.” “He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni told USA Today Sports when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved.” If the strength of Harden’s MVP case this season was just his own individual offensive brilliance, he’d still have a rock-solid case. He did record the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history this season and won the scoring title a season after leading the league in assists. But, as D’Antoni noted, Harden's ability to raise the level of play from teammates like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and others is what stands out. “I don't think there's a player that's had to create as much as I've had to in these last three years," Harden said in a GQ profile that came out this week. "I don't know if there's a guy in NBA history.” That comment can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it’s sure to spark yet another debate as the conversation continues deep into this postseason about who is most deserving of Kia MVP honors. But we’re done here. “It’s James Harden, no doubt about it,” a Western Conference executive told me when asked if there was any dispute about this season’s most valuable player. “Harden in a landslide.” * * * The top five in the Final Edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 2017-18 season stats: 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden declared early on that this was the Rockets’ season. He felt they finally had the pieces to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference standings, and, therefore, the entire league. He served notice on opening night, when he and the Rockets spoiled the Warriors' championship banner and rings celebration at Oracle Arena by claiming a win. Harden’s 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds was the opening salvo in what turned into the best season in Rockets history. Harden’s ability to blend his point guard responsibilities with his role as the most lethal scorer in the league fueled one brilliant performance after another. As well, Harden also silenced the critics who suggested he and Paul would not be able to play well off of each other. The Rockets enter the postseason with the No. 1 overall seed and with all the confidence needed for a championship run. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 2017-18 season stats: 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds LeBron put the final touches on his outstanding 15th NBA regular season by capturing Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for March/April, the fourth time this season he took those honors (October/November, December and February). In addition to the parade of milestones LeBron reached this season, he also piled up a career-high 18 triple-doubles, led the Cavaliers through a tumultuous year that ended with 50 or more wins for the fourth straight season. He shot better than 54 percent from the floor (.542) and also had his best shooting from beyond the 3-point line (.367) since returning to Cleveland from Miami before the 2014-15 season. The true test of his super powers, though, will be on display in this postseason. The Cavaliers finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference but go into the playoffs as the favorite, in the eyes of most, to survive the gauntlet due in large part to LeBron’s work the past seven seasons guiding his teams to The Finals. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 3 2017-18 season stats: 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks Davis turned it on when the Pelicans needed it most, after DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He powered the Pelicans with 50 double-doubles, one triple-double and, when the Pelicans needed grind their way into the postseason as 2017-18 waned, he picked his game up even more. He averaged 29 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks during the Pelicans’ season-ending five-game win streak that helped them secure the No. 6 seed. That sealed up Davis' second career playoff run and he’s still looking for his first playoff win. His ability to carry the load for the Pelicans the way he did, though, is easily the most impressive part of his season. There was no guarantee the Pelicans would make the playoffs in a rugged Western Conference even with Cousins healthy. To do it without him speaks volumes about the impact Davis had on his team. 4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 4 2017-18 season stats: 26.9 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard has done what few thought possible after the Portland team he joined as a rookie was taken apart and rebuilt around him. The catalyst for a Blazers team that finished third in the West, Lillard forced his way onto that short list of names in the best-point-guard-in-the-game discussion. He lacks the championship and/or Kia MVP hardware guys like Curry, Kyrie Irving and Westbrook all have. But his body of work as the face of Portland's franchise makes it difficult to leave him out of the discussion. The Blazers wouldn't have come anywhere close to that No. 3 seed without Lillard going nuclear in February (31.4 points, six assists and nearly five rebounds in 10 games). This has been a transformative year on and off the court for Lillard, who is not only had a career-best season, but also celebrated the birth of his son late last month. 5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 5 2017-18 season stats: 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists Durant followed up his 2017 Finals MVP honors with a steady season, by his lofty standard, but not one that pushed him closer to the top of this list. His understanding of the way the regular season connects to the postseason no doubt played a role in the way he paced himself. That’s not to say that Durant didn't have an outstanding regular season, because he did. But just like James and to an extent his All-Star teammate, Curry, Durant’s seasons are now measured against the high standard he’s set in past ones. He actually averaged more points and assists this season compared to his first with the Warriors. And he set a career-high with 1.8 blocks per game, showing off his improved awareness and effectiveness on defense. With Curry out for the first round of the playoffs due to injury, Durant will get a chance to remind the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the league just how dangerous he can be with everything on the line. The next five 6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks 10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Ceres Negros dominates, Global Cebu draws in 2018 AFC Cup action

Two Filipino clubs saw action in the 2018 AFC Cup Group Stages, Wednesday evening, with both getting favorable results as Ceres Negros FC dominated Cambodia's Boeung Ket Angkor, 4-0, at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, while Global Cebu FC salvaged a 3-3 draw with Vietnam's FLC Thanh Hoa at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.  Bienve Marañon stole the show over at Phnom Penh as the Spanish striker recorded a hat trick, while Takumi Uesato added a goal of his own to lead the Bacolod-based club to their fourth win in five matches.  Ceres Negros improves to 13 points off four wins and a draw to win Group F and clinch a spot in the Zonal Semifinals.  The Pinoy side wraps up the Group Stage against Singaporean side Home United at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod on April 25th.  Things were certainly more dramatic over in Manila, as Global Cebu mounted a comeback from two goals down, capped off by a game-saving goal from Darryl Roberts in the final minute of regulation.  The visitors got on the board really early in the match, with Edward Ofere scoring in just the second minute of action.  Rufo responded quickly for Global Cebu with an equalizer just four minutes later.  Thanh Hoa regained the lead in the 25th minute courtesy of Le Thanh Binh, followed by a Dinh Tung conversion in the second half to make it 3-1.  When it looked as if all was lost for the Pinoy side with less than ten minutes to go, Wesley Dos Santos pulled one back in the 82nd minute to cut the lead to just one goal, before Roberts came up with the last-minute equalizer.  With the draw, Global Cebu improves to five points off a win, two draws and two losses. While they've been eliminated from Zonal Semifinals contention, Global Cebu can still finish as runners up in Group G with a Group Stage-closing win over Bali United on April 25th. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Clippers rally to beat Spurs 113-110

By Tom Connolly, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tobias Harris scored 31 points, Lou Williams added 22 and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied for a 113-110 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Harris made 11-of-19 shots and Williams scored 15 points in the final quarter to spark the Clippers' comeback. It was the 37th time this season Williams has scored 20 or more as a reserve. Austin Rivers scored 18 points and Montrezl Harrell had 16 points for the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan scored 10 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 35 points for the Spurs. Patty Mills added 17 and Rudy Gay scored 13 points. San Antonio (45-33) is tied for 4th place in the Western Conference with Utah. The Spurs have four games remaining, two on the road and two at home. The Clippers are 10th, 1.5 games behind New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff spot. They have four games remaining, three at home and one on the road. Williams' basket tied the score at 103 with 1:58 to play and he gave the Clippers a 106-105 lead with a bucket with 50 seconds remaining. Mills countered with a three-pointer to give the Spurs a 108-106 lead with 37 seconds left, but Rivers answered by drilling a three-pointer to give Los Angeles a 109-108 lead. Williams and Harris hit four free throws in the final seconds to secure the win. The Clippers trailed by 19 points in the second quarter, but rallied and took a 64-63 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter, following a three-point play by Jordan. However, Aldridge scored nine points over the final 4:24 of the third quarter as the Spurs built an 83-72 lead after three periods. The Clippers defeated San Antonio for the first time in three tries this season. Williams is averaging 22.7 points and leads the NBA with 595 fourth-quarter points this season. San Antonio fell to 14-25 on the road. San Antonio led 31-17 after the first period. The Spurs increased their lead to 49-30 but the Clippers countered with a 19-7 run over the final five minutes of the quarter to cut the lead to 56-49 at halftime. Harris made 7-of-12 shots and led the Clippers with 17 points in the first half. Both teams shot over 45 percent in the opening half. TIP-INS San Antonio: Since joining the NBA in 1976, the Spurs have accumulated the best winning percentage in NBA history (.623) ... Entering Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) game, the Spurs led the league in fewest points scored by their opponents per game (99.2). Clippers: Harris is averaging career-highs in points per game (18.6) and in three-point percentage shooting (41.6). ... The Clippers are 40-126 all-time against the Spurs. ... F Danilo Gallinari missed Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) game with a hand injury. UP NEXT Spurs: Remain in Los Angeles and play the Lakers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Clippers: Travel to Salt Lake City to play the Jazz on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 4th, 2018

Mitchell, Exum lead Jazz past Grizzlies, 107-97

By MATTHEW COLES ,  Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points and Dante Exum had a season-high 21 to lead the Utah Jazz over the Memphis Grizzlies, 107-97 on Friday night. The Jazz clung to a 96-91 lead in the fourth quarter before Exum made a short jumper and then used his speed to make a layup and put the game out of reach. Exum played strong defense and was just one short of his career best as he shot 8 of 10 in the absence of Ricky Rubio. Joe Ingles, playing the point, had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Royce O'Neale added 13 points for the Jazz, who are jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference. Marc Gasol missed just one shot — a long 3-pointer — in scoring 28 points, but didn't play in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies may have needed him the most. MarShon Brooks had 24 points after scoring a team-high 21 points Wednesday against the Trail Blazers in his first NBA game since April 16, 2014. He is averaging more than a point a minute during his 10-day contract. In each of their last two home games — losses to lowly Atlanta and a depleted Boston squad — the Jazz failed to score a basket in the final 2:25 and gave up leads down the stretch. This time, Exum, in just his eighth game after preseason shoulder surgery, made sure the Jazz didn't need to sweat it. The Jazz swept the season series with the Grizzlies, 3-0. Gasol made his first eight shots, including four 3-pointers. The Memphis center gave the Grizzlies a 64-60 lead in the third quarter with two more jumpers beyond the arc after his first miss of the game. Memphis trailed by as many as 17 in the first half. Grizzlies had won consecutive games for the first time since mid-January but played with mostly reserves down the stretch. TIP-INS Grizzlies: Memphis scored 14 points in the first quarter, matching Oklahoma City's output on Oct. 21 for the lowest of the season for a Utah opponent. ... Then, Gasol scored 13 by himself in the second quarter. ... Ben McLemore got a technical foul for pushing Rudy Gobert after a play with 7:36 remaining. Jazz: Rubio missed the game with a sore left hamstring. The Jazz are 4-1 without Rubio this season. ... Mitchell is 18 of 68 from 3-point range the past eight games. ... Utah made only 15-of-26 free throws. SUBSTITUTE TEACHER? Since replacing David Fizdale on Nov. 27, J.B. Bickerstaff has a 14-43 record as an interim coach. "Obviously, not knowing the future is always difficult. But this group of guys has been great to coach because they've never feel like a substitute teacher. Everything we've asked them to do, they've bought into," Bickerstaff said. "I've never felt like they've been trying to maneuver around me or go above me. They've just done what we've asked them to do." UP NEXT Grizzlies: Continue their trip at Portland on Sunday night. Jazz: Visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 31st, 2018

Blazers beat Heat 115-99 for 10th straight victory

By Erik Garcia Gundersen, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 32 points and 10 assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Miami Heat 115-99 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) for their 10th straight victory. Jusuf Nurkic added 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers, who have the longest current winning streak in the NBA and a two-game lead over Oklahoma City for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Heat used an 18-2 run to start the fourth quarter to trim a 19-point deficit to three, but Lillard took charge for the Blazers, just as he has throughout the winning streak. The All-Star guard broke Portland's drought of over five minutes with a three-pointer midway through the period to put Portland back in front by six, and the Blazers stayed safely ahead from there. Lillard scored 21 points after halftime. He leads the league in second-half scoring. Goran Dragic scored 23 points for the Heat, who were without two key players in starting center Hassan Whiteside and sixth man Dwyane Wade. The Blazers closed the first quarter on a 14-4 lead to take a 34-25 lead, capped by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from rookie Zach Collins. Another three-pointer by Collins with 7:03 left in the second quarter put Portland up 45-33, forcing the Heat to call time. TIP-INS Heat: Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) was the deadline for the Heat to use a $5.5 million trade exception they were granted after shooting guard Dion Waiters underwent season-ending surgery on his ankle. The Heat would have had to release a player already on their roster to open up a roster spot to use the sizable exception. Trail Blazers: Lillard came in averaging nearly 33 points during the streak, which includes two victories over the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. "I think this might be the best level that he's played," coach Terry Stotts said. "I thought what he did last year after the All-Star break was amazing. He carried us to the playoffs last year, showing great leadership and a high quality of play. It might be better this year, but we still have 16 games to go." UP NEXT Heat: Miami continues its three-game road trip in Sacramento on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Trail Blazers: Welcome LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time).  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 13th, 2018

Whiteside, Wade carry Heat past 76ers, 108-99

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Hassan Whiteside scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade added 16 and the Miami Heat moved a step closer to the playoffs by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 108-99 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Josh Richardson scored 13 points, Tyler Johnson had 12 and Kelly Olynyk added 10 to help the Heat stay No. 7 in the Eastern Conference and move within a game of No. 6 Philadelphia. Dario Saric had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, who got 19 points from JJ Redick and 17 from Joel Embiid. Marco Belinelli added 14. It came down to the fourth — Miami shot 13-for-18, Philadelphia 7-for-22. And in the end, the Heat and 76ers split their four meetings this season. Combined score: Heat 409, 76ers 407. The Heat used 10 players — all 10 scored, all 10 had at least two rebounds, and eight of the 10 had at least two assists. Miami controlled the fourth and led by 11 with 2:01 left, before the 76ers had one last gasp. Redick was fouled by Whiteside before an inbounds pass came in, giving him one free throw. Redick added a jumper on the ensuing possession, and after a stop Belinelli connected on a three-pointer — and just like that, after six points in 37 seconds, Miami's lead was 101-96. The drama essentially ended there. Whiteside made two foul shots, and Wade slammed home a lob from Richardson with 50.6 seconds left for a nine-point edge. Embiid banked in a three from the wing to get Philly within six, but the outcome wasn't in doubt again. Miami was up 12 late in the first half, before Redick willed the 76ers right back into things. He was 3-for-3 from three-point range in the final 2:42 of the half, helping Philadelphia get within two late before Wade made a spinning jumper with one second left that sent Miami into the break with a 53-49 lead. No separation was to be had in the third quarter, either. Miami led by four early, Philadelphia led by five twice — both times after three-pointers by Belinelli — and the 76ers wound up leading 74-73 going into the fourth. TIP-INS 76ers: Robert Covington missed all 10 of his shots. In the last 50 years, only two 76ers have gone 0-for-11 in a game — one of them being Covington, on Dec. 29, 2016. The other was Evan Turner, in 2013. ... Embiid's 5-for-17 night was his second-worst shooting effort of the season. His previous low was a 4-for-16 game against Boston on Oct. 20. ... Heat: Miami's one player from Philadelphia — Dion Waiters — missed all four Heat-76ers games this season because of his ankle surgery. Waiters got his cast removed earlier this week. ... Wade is 23-4 in home games against Philadelphia. ... Whiteside made 9 of his 12 shots. SWING GAMES Double-digit leads have meant almost nothing in this Heat-76ers season series. Miami let an early 12-point lead get away Thursday (Friday, PHL time) — and that was no big deal compared to what happened in the first three matchups. Philadelphia won a game where Miami led by 24, the Heat won a game where they trailed by 13, and the 76ers had to scramble to win a game by six — after seeing a 28-point lead cut to four later. EASY FINISH The 76ers have 18 games left, and at least 13 will be against opponents who aren't in the playoff picture. They still face Brooklyn three times, New York and Atlanta twice. And they have only seven road games remaining — zero against teams with winning records. UP NEXT 76ers: At Brooklyn on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Heat: Host Washington on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 9th, 2018

When NBA returns, will Warriors’ dominance come back, too?

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press The Golden State Warriors have never lost more than 15 games in a season under Steve Kerr. They could reach that total in the first night after the All-Star break. The Warriors who return Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) aren’t the same ones who dominated the NBA for the last three seasons. The defending champions sputtered into their week off with four losses in their final eight games, falling into second place in the Western Conference behind Houston — ending a three-year run of taking the league’s best record into the break. At 44-14 and loaded with four All-Stars, the Warriors are still very good, but not as good they’ve been. “This year we’ve had a pretty solid season, but feel that we can play a lot better,” Stephen Curry said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do this next 20 games before another championship run.” Their performances against their first two opponents out of the break show how different things have been for these Warriors. The Los Angeles Clippers, who visit Golden State on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), won in Oakland last month after losing the previous 12 meetings in the series. And the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State’s opponent Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a nationally televised game, have defeated the Warriors by 17 and 20 points already this season. They can become the first team to beat Golden State three times in a season since San Antonio went 4-0 against the Warriors in 2013-14 — the season before Kerr’s arrival. Their spotty play thus far makes Curry appreciate their time at the top even more. “We’ve kind of set a standard of excellence in the league,” he said. “That’s pretty cool to think about sustaining that high level of play for so long.” ___ Some other things to watch when play resumes Thursday with six games: RACE TO THE BOTTOM: While the NBA fined Dallas owner Mark Cuban $600,000 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) for his public comments about tanking, the Mavericks have plenty of company near the bottom of the standings. Phoenix has lost seven straight to share the worst record in the league with Atlanta at 18-41, and six other teams, including the Mavs, have 20 or fewer victories. The team who finishes last has the best chance to win the draft lottery, though if it’s Brooklyn (19-40), that makes a winner out of Cleveland, which has the Nets’ pick that belonged to Boston after acquiring it in the Kyrie Irving trade. DOMINANT DAVIS: Anthony Davis scored 44, 38 and 42 points in his last three games before the All-Star break, leading New Orleans to victories in all of them. He leads the league with 22 games of 30 points or more and the Pelicans might need him to keep it up, as they are just a half-game ahead of the Clippers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. MEN OF MYSTERY: Two of the NBA’s strange absences could be cleared up after the break — or could last through the rest of the season. Spurs star Kawhi Leonard continues to rehabilitate a right thigh injury — the team lists his reason for not playing as “return from injury management” — after he was shut down after appearing in just nine games. Philadelphia guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 draft pick, remains sidelined with a right shoulder injury after playing in just four games. Neither player has been ruled out for the season, though there’s not much time left if they’re going to come back. RISING ROOKIES: Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who won the Slam Dunk contest at the All-Star Game, and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia could be locked in tight race for Rookie of the Year. Both have their teams on the rise, as the Jazz have won 11 straight games to pull within 1 ½ games of eighth place in the West, while the 76ers have won five in a row and are seventh in the East. LONZO AND THE LAKERS: Lonzo Ball is set to return to the Lakers after missing the last 15 games with a sore left knee. While the No. 2 pick was out, the Lakers have used Brandon Ingram in the point guard role and also acquired Isaiah Thomas from Cleveland, so coach Luke Walton will have to figure out how to fit in his prized rookie......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 22nd, 2018